Are the Spanish media really obsessed with Israel?

John Chappell links to an old piece from the Stephen Roth Institute in Tel Aviv which claims among other things that “reports about Israel occupy a disproportionate amount of international space in the Spanish media”.

If their frame of reference is countries in a similar situation to Spain and and with a similar relationship to Israel, then their claim doesn’t reflect my experience of reading a considerable variety of newspapers in various European languages. While I wait for someone to point me to a serious global study, I’ve rigged up a snapshot of {story hits for Israel, Turkey, Greece and Egypt individually}/{total sHits for the four countries} in Google News sources for France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Holland and Germany, to try and get an idea of whether, within its Eastern Mediterranean coverage, the Spanish media devotes an inordinate amount of space to Israel:

eastern mediterranean in western european media

Does Israel occupy a disproportionate amount of Eastern Mediterranean space in the Spanish media?
Judging by this, no. Spain’s profile is very close to France’s, and I don’t think anyone has accused the French press of an unhealthy obsession with Israel.

Why is the proportion devoted to Israel so much lower in Germany, Holland and Italy?
Because the former two have large Turkish minorities. With Italy I have no idea, as usual.

Why is there a relatively large gap between first and second place in Spanish and
Portuguese scores?

Because their international coverage is based on institutional ignorance and tends towards schizophrenic sensationalism rather than the broader-based, better-resourced coverage (generally speaking) in the German press.

Proportions are one thing, but show us the absolute ghits.
Here they be:

Hits for x in GN for y Egypt Greece Israel Turkey Egypt/total Greece/total Israel/total Turkey/total
France 4,620 3,843 7,800 3,774 23.06% 19.18% 38.93% 18.84%
Italy 1,256 2,000 2,654 1,867 16.15% 25.72% 34.13% 24.01%
Portugal 591 1,177 2,525 1,119 10.92% 21.75% 46.66% 20.68%
Spain 5,254 5,930 11,960 5,146 18.57% 20.96% 42.28% 18.19%
Netherlands 470 529 1,337 1,652 11.79% 13.26% 33.53% 41.42%
Germany 3,216 5,565 7,302 6,299 14.37% 24.86% 32.62% 28.14%

They’re curious principally because Spain–not notable for popular literacy–seems to produce huge numbers of hits for everything. I don’t know why this is. Is Spain producing huge quantities of news items, perhaps due to strong propensity of under-occupied middle-aged drunks (aka civil servants) in this country to repackage themselves from bar bore to political pundit? Is GN’s Spain cache bigger than for other countries?

So, in view of this, and to get back to the original question, do you think this is globally generalisable–that it will be demonstrated that the Portuguese, Spanish and French have no exaggerated interest in the Eastern Mediterranean?

The other claims in the piece are interesting but not particularly worrying because Spain has a very small Jewish population (which has suffered nothing like the troubles experienced north of the border) and because Spain’s ability to influence international affairs is small and apparently diminishing. Anti-semitism here is customarily expressed in surrogate form as a desire to sort out Israel once and for all rather than in hostility to individuals. Anti-“Moorish” sentiment on the other hand manifests itself in extreme and generalised hatred of immigrants from North Africa, accompanied by an almost complete lack of interest in the states they left behind. With rocketing unemployment among young male Maghrebis, I think this will be the focus of problems over the next few years. Folks kind of hate the Chinese AND their state, so I guess we’ll have more attacks against them too.

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  1. Good job, Trevor. I still agree with the Roth Institute article, though; I believe the Spanish media (and the French media, too) is obsessed with Israel, that coverage is extremely negative, and that anti-Semitic bigotry is rampant.

    As for Tom, I’m not the guy who called your mother a prostitute. I think it was the other way around. So you can kiss my rude ass in the Plaza San Jaime.

  2. This is classic John Chappell: nice work on the research, but I’ll maintain my incorrect position.

    John – if you’re still upset about my Rubianes quote , you need to grow up. I’m sure your mother isn’t a prostitute (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and besides, I have already apologised for offending you and I removed the piece from my blog because I didn’t want to cause anyone hurt. It was a bad joke, I’m sorry, please forgive me.

    In fact, I’ve emailed you on numerous occasions in order to help you with your website’s design and for various other things. You still haven’t replied. I often sit here for hours on end, waiting for my Gmail notification tool to tell me that you’ve written back, but to no avail.

    I shan’t kiss your rude ass in the Plaza San Jaime (that was a bit too anatomical for my liking), but I will make a donation of €10 to the socialist charity of your choosing, as a sign of my contrition.

    (By the way, my quick Google research finds the ‘son of a bitch’ insult, the natural equivalent of ‘hijo de puta’ used several times on Iberian Notes. The message stays the same, John: Can’t have it both ways).

  3. In a Western European context, I don’t think John or the institute will find any quantitative comparative data to back up claims of a Spanish or even a French obsession. As you say, Israel is much more newsworthy. Greece and Turkey haven’t seriously thought about going to war for a very long time, and even if they did we’d still get our oil. No one cares in the slightest about Egypt unless Sarkozy takes his missus there or some tourists go straight to heaven without any advance warning.

  4. Stop being anti-semitic Tom. We all know that Palestinian casualties are either terrorists or unfortunate accidents.

    Although 10 Palestinians die for every Israeli in the middle east conflict, if accidents and terrorists are removed from the statistics, the ratio is more like 0/1.

  5. Is it anti-Semitic to call a Palestinian a Semite?

    boynamedsue – you’re right of course. The only reason I bang on about stories like that is that deep down inside I love terror and hate freedom.

  6. Give them a break. Spain just left the inquisition and started t become a third rate country.

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